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Vaccinations at Delhi arena could last into fall

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Norfolk staff say it’s premature to speculate whether the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit will be finished with the Delhi Community Arena as a mass-vaccination site in time for the 2021-22 hockey and figure skating seasons.

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“I don’t want to make a commitment to that currently because I just don’t know,” Norfolk CAO Jason Burgess told the Norfolk and Haldimand board of health on March 2.

“One thing I’ve learned from COVID — and what I’ve learned from provincial and federal plans — is I don’t want to put too much weight on them. If we get good vaccination coverage and hit our numbers we’ll probably move to a clinic.

“I know that’s not the answer anyone wanted to hear. They want to know about the ice by a certain date. But at this point we’ll be in a better position to say in August.”

The health unit initially tapped the Vittoria Community Centre and Norfolk General Hospital as the two main clinics for coronavirus vaccines in Norfolk once they become available.

However, staff substituted the Delhi arena for the community centre last week after deciding the Vittoria venue was too small to deliver the number of doses the health unit is aiming for on a daily basis.

Given the dimensions of the community centre, its floor plan and the demands of social distancing, health unit staff estimate it could administer about 250 vaccines a day in Vittoria. Plans are to ramp this up to nearly 1,000 doses a day in Delhi with the combined help of health unit staff and staff from the Delhi Community Health Centre nearby.

“Delhi is the best location,” Burgess said, referring to its wide open spaces and its ability to process a large number of people in a safe manner.

“We’ve talked with Delhi minor hockey. They have been graceful and accommodating. We hope we can have a significant chunk of the vaccinations done by the end of September.”

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Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus thanked Burgess for his response and asked him to keep the needs of Delhi minor hockey and figure skating in mind as the vaccination plan unfolds.

Burgess said Norfolk’s recreation staff is working with user groups in Delhi to ensure ice time lost at home is rescheduled for arenas in nearby communities.

When vaccinations in Norfolk for the general population will begin remains to be seen. The province’s vaccination registration website is expected to be up and running by mid-March.

For her part, Heidy VanDyk, Norfolk and Haldimand’s interim general manager of health and social services, says the health unit is currently administering COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of the community 80 years of age and older who continue to live at home.

Also receiving vaccinations are front-line health-care workers who might be called on to tend to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. All residents of long-term care and retirement homes who wanted a vaccination have received them, as have most of the personal support workers who tend to them.

Norfolk and Haldimand are separate counties but share a common health unit. As such, Norfolk council serves as the board of health for both municipalities due to Norfolk’s larger population.

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